Persuasive Essay on Nuclear Power
I'd have to start by teaching him/her to write "I'm" instead of "im." Next, use a question mark.
So I decided to write a little sample persuasive essay. I thought this might be useful for those who are looking to find out how to structure a persuasive essay. The structure is pretty basic. You put in some of the arguments for your thesis; you put in some of the arguments against your thesis; and then you explain why the for arguments are better than the against arguments. Read through the sample persuasive essay to see how I do this.
First this sample persuasive essay needs an introduction. Visit my Five Great Ways to Write an Introduction page for some ideas on how to begin this essay. What follows is the body of this sample persuasive essay. By "sample" I mean: Don't copy this and hand it in as your work. These are some ideas for you to research and document. I could be full of s**t when it comes to reasoning about nuclear power. Get some quotes from experts to back up these statements.
But seriously, I can give many reasons to be opposed to nuclear power. But in a persuasive essay, you have to consider both sides. So let's look at the reasons why some people believe nuclear power is a good solution to the growing need for energy.
Reasons for nuclear powerNuclear power creates no greenhouse gasses. The amount of CO2 has almost doubled in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Most scientists today believe that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is trapping heat and slowly causing the average global temperature to rise. Since heat is really a form of energy, the increased energy in the atmosphere is experienced by us not only in the form of higher temperatures, but also as more severe storms and extreme weather events. These are generally bad things. Burning coal and oil adds to greenhouse gasses. Nuclear power is a means of using the energy of radioactive decay, and thus does not burn coal or oil.
The sources of oil that we are using today are often either in difficult to reach places, such as undersea, or in the high Arctic. The oil extracted from these places is expensive. Oil from the middle east, or other places around the world may be a source of money for governments that are anti-democratic or corrupt. Oil from Canada's tar sands may have other environmental costs. Increasing the development of nuclear power may reduce the use of oil from all these sources. Unlike oil, uranium can be sourced in North America, bypassing the possibility of sending money to potentially unfriendly or unpleasant governments.
Reasons against nuclear powerNow that's about all the good stuff I can think of for nuclear power. In my opinion, there are many more reasons to be against nuclear power than to be for it. Before I specifically look at why I don't think the two arguments supporting nuclear power are valid, I will look at other arguments against nuclear power.
Nuclear power is not safe. In just over 30 years three major accidents have caught the world's attention. The most recent, Japan's Fukushima's reactor, is still ongoing. We do not yet know how many have or will die as a result of this disaster. But at Chernobyl, in 1986, hundreds died, and thousands were affected by radiation. The thing about radiation is that there is no safe level.
That doesn't mean we can be absolutely safe. We are exposed to radiation every day. Every place on the planet has natural background radiation. Radioactivity produces energy waves not unlike light waves from the sun. However, some forms of energy waves produced by radioactivity can pass through our bodies. Most of the time, this is harmless, but occasionally, an energy wave passing through a body can hit a strand of DNA, damaging the DNA. In some cases, this can cause the cell to become cancerous. Even sunlight can do this.
But obviously, the more someone is exposed to radiation, the more likely they are to suffer some bad consequences, like cancer. Therefore increasing the radioactivity in the air or water as a result of even tiny leaks from a nuclear power plant will increase the risk of people getting cancer. Often we can't even identify which people were harmed by a radioactive leak; all we can say is that statistically, the cancer rates went up.
Nuclear power is not economical either. Since the costs of a nuclear accident could be so high, insurance companies will not insure a nuclear power plant. Therefore the only organization that can insure a nuclear power plant is the government -- us. We are the insurers of all the nuclear power plants in our country. (Doesn't matter which country you live in.) The government of Japan will have to pay for all the cleanup and damages from the Fukushima accident. They are already raising taxes. The nuclear power industry is already subsidized; government grants, loan guarantees, and other incentives make nuclear power cheaper than it would be if the real costs were calculated. The costs of storing or disposing of wastes are not calculated either. Nuclear waste can be toxic for up to 240,000 years. It must be kept from leaking into the environment for that long. This is an unimaginable time scale from a human perspective.
Greenhouse gassesNow, let's look at the greenhouse gas issue. Yes, it is true that nuclear plants do not use fossil fuels to generate electricity, as do coal plants, natural gas plants, or oil burning plants. But why not measure the CO2 produced during the many years it takes to build a nuclear power plant? Why not calculate the greenhouse gasses produced by mining, refining, and transporting uranium? These are substantial, as well.
A final thing that should be pointed out when writing about nuclear energy is about who is promoting it. Nuclear power is promoted by very big corporations. It is a very centralized form of energy production. Alternative energy sources are naturally more widely distributed. No one alternative source can answer all of the energy needs the way that oil or nuclear have tried to. Whether you are talking about solar power, wind power, geothermal power, tide power, or small hydroelectric projects, decentralized energy systems are more democratic because they don't require such vast concentrations of capital to come into play. It should be clear that if democracy is really our highest value (and aren't we constantly asking our young people to give up their lives to defend it?) then democracy in energy production should be our model.
What does this need to be a proper essay? For one, it needs some original research. Don't quote me, I'm just a grumpy old anti-nuclear activist. Get some solid statistics from actual organizations that have done research on nuclear power. A persuasive essay must be ... well, persuasive. And it needs an introduction and a conclusion. Here are some suggestions on ways to write a conclusion.
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Nuclear energy is a comparatively new source of energy. The first nuclear power plant was commissioned in June 1954 in Obninsk, Russia. Fossil fuels offer a limited source of energy, as they are non-renewable. Eventually these supplies will cease, this is predicted to be in the next few decades. An estimate based on fuel consumption in America, predicts as early as 2020 there will be no fossil fuels left.
The energy used by the whole world is approximated to be the coal equivalent to 2790 Gigatons per year. Fossil fuels reserves total for the world in 1980 had approximately 8685 Gigatons of coal and 91.2 Gigatons of oil. This is why extensive research has gone into looking for new sources of energy to keep things powered.
Energy sources currently being used are hydroelectricity, wind turbines, solar power, fossil fuels and nuclear power, and now also hydrogen fuel cells. There is much controversy over the health and safety issues of using nuclear power, especially after Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl disasters.
Where does the energy come from?
The nucleus is the centre of the atom which is normally made up of the same number of protons as it has neutrons. However, some very large nuclei in certain isotopes have an imbalance. They can often be found with too many neutrons, and this imbalance will result in the nucleus becoming unstable.
Uranium-235 is a radioactive substance which due to its large size and unstable state can undergo induced fission. Its nucleus can be split into smaller atoms when induced by a neutron. This process will release two or three neutrons, depending on how the atom splits. These new neutrons can then initiate the decomposition of the nuclei of other atoms of Uranium. Propagation by the chain reaction releases more neutrons and causes further nuclear splits.
Under controlled conditions, the rate of this chain reaction can be kept at a constant rate. This produces high temperatures but is not allowed to react out of control as in a nuclear bomb. The heat produced is used to turn water into steam, the steam then turns a turbine and generator, creating electricity.
In a reactor the uranium source required is 3-4% Uranium-235. Therefore it is necessary to enrich natural Uranium to use for nuclear power. This is done by converting uranium oxide extracted from ore into gaseous form, uranium hexafluoride. From this form it can be enriched from its natural proportion of 0.7% uranium-235 to 3-4%, this is done by separation of isotopes. A higher enrichment means better efficiency, and ordinary water can then be used as a moderator.
The form of uranium usually used is pellet form, these are arranged into rods and then to bundles. These bundles are surrounded by a moderator such as water, graphite or heavy water. The moderator slows down the emitted neutrons by reducing their energy as they collide with the nuclei of the moderator. Control rods are placed in the bundles which control the rate of the nuclear reaction. These can also be used to shut down the reactor completely when something goes wrong.
These control rods are materials which absorb neutrons, such as Cadmium and Boron. They work by reducing the number of neutrons in the reactor and therefore slowing down the reaction and consequently reducing the heat. To reduce heat, the rods are put further into the bundles where they absorb more neutrons. To raise the heat the opposite is done, and the heat level rises.
As the atoms are split the energy is released as heat. This is used to heat water and turns it into steam. The steam drives a steam turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity. This is what happens in a basic reactor, others include the use of intermediate heat exchangers or gaseous coolant fluid. The set up of a nuclear power plant is basically the same as that of a coal power plant. The main difference is how the water is heated to produce steam, from then on the turbines and generator work in the same way for both plants.
Efficiency of Nuclear energy
The majority, around 85%, of the energy gained from nuclear fission is the kinetic energy of the products. In solid fuel, particles can only move a very short distance. Therefore the kinetic energy is converted into heat as the particles are hitting against each other. The other 15% of the energy is gained from the Gamma rays emitted during the fission process, and from the kinetic energy of the neutrons released.
The time taken to capture and split the neutron is minute, taking only 1×10-12 seconds. The energy gained by splitting an atom comes from the fact that the products formed from the fission, together with the neutrons weigh less than the original product. The change in mass appears in the form of energy, and follows Einstein’s equation E=mc2.
The decay of a single Uranium-235 atom releases on average 200 million electron volts, the equivalent to 3.204×10-11 joules of energy. In contrast, 4 electron volts are released per molecule of carbon dioxide in the combustion of fossil fuels. To compare obtainable energy content between fossil fuels and nuclear fuel, ‘a pound of highly enriched uranium … is equal to something on the order of a million gallons of gasoline’. So it can be seen that this is a very compact source of energy.
The reason for the large amount of energy released is because the forces involved in nuclear reactions are much greater than those involved in chemical reactions. Uranium is a very dense metal at 18.95g/cm3 and the nucleus of a Uranium atom is very dense compared to the whole atom. The protons and neutrons are held very tightly together and the electrons orbiting the nucleus are comparatively far away, so this shows how the bonds involved are so much stronger.
Nuclear fission is a very efficient source of energy because of the low amounts of waste products. Combustion of fossil fuels produces waste products such as ash and toxic fumes. This reduces the amount of usable energy produced by reaction, and therefore lowers its efficiency.
Uranium is found in most rocks, at 0.000002% concentration. The Uranium found in the earths crust contains 99.3% Uranium-238 and 0.7% Uranium-235. Another possible source to extract Uranium from is seawater, the key is to find it in quantities that is economical for extraction.
Is it safe?
The reactor is contained within a concrete liner, which shields radiation. Since the Chernobyl incident, the reactor is now usually contained within a secondary containment structure made of steel. This prevents the leakage of radioactive steam in the event of an accident.
The general view on nuclear power is that it is very bad for the environment. But in reality the radioactivity released into the atmosphere by a nuclear power plant is less than that released by a coal power plant. Additionally, coal power plants also pollute that environment with carbon and sulphur. Obviously the radiation produced by the nuclear power plant is greater in volume than that produced by the coal power plant, but the radiation is contained within the reactor. The environmental issues with this containment are what happens to the radioactive waste when a nuclear power plant is shut down.
Half life and nuclear decay
In the event of a nuclear leak, the effects of radiation on the environment can be huge. This can be seen from the after effects of the Chernobyl power plant when it exploded.
In 1986, about 22% of the country was contaminated by the radiation of caesium-137. Ten to fifteen years later, 21% is still contaminated. This shows the large amount of time taken for radiation to be removed from the environment. The half-life of Uranium-235 is 700 million years, this is the time taken for half of the radioactive atoms in a sample to decay. So it can be seen that in the event of a nuclear leak, radioactive contamination causes very long term problems.
The Chernobyl Accident
The problems at the Chernobyl power plant were with reactor No. 4. Specific attributes of this reactor were that it was a light-water-cooled graphite-moderated reactor. This type of reactor has been criticised for its lack of containment structure, and large quantities of combustible graphite within its core. The accident actually occurred during a test run. The idea was to see if the turbines could produce the energy needed during a power cut, to keep coolant pumps working. Safety systems were turned off so as not to affect the test, and the reactor was reduced to 25% power capacity.
Due to a fault the power level plummeted to below 1%, so technicians began to raise the power level slowly. But a power surge occurred and the emergency shutdown, which is designed to halt the chain reactions, failed. The rising power level and temperature got out of control, causing an explosion. This blew off a 1000 tonne sealing cap, causing the radioactive fission products to be thrown up into the atmosphere. The fuel rods melted and graphite moderator set fire.
The mistake blamed for this disaster is that control rods were raised then immediately reinserted into the bundles. The inserting of control rods usually reduces the rate of the chain reaction. But in the case too many control rods were raised and replaced. This then had the reverse effect of raising power levels so fast that it caused the destruction of the reactor.
Lessons learned from disasters
In 2000, Germany decided to phase out nuclear power, and look into sources of power with less severe possible consequences on the environment. The disaster created international debate over the economics and controllability of nuclear power. In most European countries, no new research is being carried out on continuing to build nuclear power plants. Instead the research is aimed at improving safety features at existing nuclear power plants and disposal of nuclear waste. As of 1995, conversely, Asia and Eastern Europe have over 100 reactor units either planned or being constructed.
The number of nuclear power plant inspectors rose vastly after this disaster, and general safety awareness has greatly improved. New regulations on emergency procedures where also put in place.
The effects of the radiation are still affecting inhabitants of nearby countries, and are causing severe health problems amongst the young and old. At least now safety and disaster management are main issues within this industry, and hopefully this kind of event will not be allowed to happen in the future.
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